Linking Habitat Restoration to Bioenergy and Local Economies
(also known as Woody Biomass Harvest for Habitat Restoration)
Barb Spears, Project Coordinator
1200 Warner Road
St. Paul, MN 55106
This project builds on the success of a one-time $500,000 legislative appropriation in 2007 that piloted the Linking Habit Restoration to Bioenergy project that connected two separate but linked aspects of environmental health: habitat restoration and bioenergy.
Linking Habitat Restoration to Bioenergy and Local Economies is an innovative project that helps to restore critical habitats and high quality native plant communities by removing ecologically inappropriate woody vegetation (exotic and/or native species) while stimulating local economies through strategic utilization of the biomass material for bioenergy or other products. This project is helping to facilitate habitat restoration efforts that might not have otherwise occurred while making the woody material generated as a by-product available to established and emerging woody biomass markets.
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Division of Ecological and Water Resources received $600,000 from the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF) as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) and funded by the 2010 Legislature and amended by the 2012 Legislature (ML 2012, Chap. 272, Sec. 85 ). Of the $600,000 appropriation, approximately $475,000 is available for projects through June 30, 2013:
- $300,000 will be granted to non-DNR public and private landowners through a competitive process
- $175,000 will be retained for projects on DNR-owned land
- restore critical habitats and high quality native plant communities and enhance biodiversity
- utilize woody biomass material and expand market opportunities for biomass traditionally burned or landfilled
- stimulate local woody biomass markets, support local businesses and NGOs, and employ labor crews, such as Conservation Corps Minnesota
- provide direct benefits to ecosystems, economies, and human communities
- complete a variety of types of projects (based on species/type of woody plant material, density, distance, land ownership, utilization opportunity, etc.) to diversify the project information base in order to assess the feasibility of market-driven ecological restoration
Funds will be granted to any non-DNR public and private landowners through a competitive process for the cutting, moving and staging of ecologically inappropriate woody plant material for transport from the project site for the purpose of ecological restoration. Limited funding may be provided to bridge budget gaps for restoration activities immediately following biomass harvest based on demonstrated need. Compensation is on a reimbursement basis for stated deliverables under a Grant Agreement and approved work plan with the MN DNR.
DNR staff will identify viable markets for the woody biomass (such as bioenergy, mulch, pellets, animal bedding, firewood, and other products) and develop and manage a formal bid process to connect potential buyers and users to the material. Funds raised from the sale of woody biomass will be reinvested for further purposes of the project.
Project Site Selection Criteria:
- Ecological value and recovery potential of the project site(s): priority will be given to sites ranked as outstanding or high by the MN County Biological Survey and/or containing one or more key habitats as described in Tomorrow's Habitat for the Wild and Rare: Minnesota's State Wildlife Action Plan.
- Association: priority will be given to projects associated with an existing restoration initiative.
- Location: priority will be given to projects located within the primary target area of focus which is within a 75-mile radius of St. Paul encompassing the Metro (primarily), Central, and Southeast regions of Minnesota to include all or portions of Anoka, Benton, Carver, Chisago, Dakota, Dodge, Goodhue, Hennepin, Isanti, Kanabec, Le Sueur, McLeod, Meeker, Mille Lacs, Nicollet, Olmsted, Pine, Ramsey, Rice, Sherburne, Sibley, Stearns, Steele, Wabasha, Waseca, Washington, and Wright Counties.
- Conservation easements: priority will be given to sites protected under a conservation easement.
- Suitable road and site access must exist for equipment required to cut, move, sort, stage, collect, and transport woody material; proposed staging area for biomass material and equipment must be adequate with limited or no modifications.
- Current management plan (10 years or less) that clearly articulates ecological restoration goals for the project site(s). Amendments to an outdated management plan are acceptable.
- Demonstrated capacity to provide project management services to coordinate all aspects of this project and to track and report budget information relating to the project.
- Demonstrated capacity and commitment to conduct post biomass-harvest restoration activities and monitoring to achieve and maintain long-term restoration goals as explicitly described in an "Ecological Restoration and Management Plan" consistent with the LCCMR and DNR guidelines.
- Detailed "Woody Biomass Project Harvest Plan."